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what to wear in washington dc

What to Wear in Washington, D.C.


D.C. locals expect you to look like a tourist: Embrace it. And remember that the city isn’t known as a fashion mecca. When it comes to what to wear in Washington, D.C., it’s hard to make any real style faux pas; it’s more important to be comfortable.

What to Wear in Washington, D.C.

If there’s one cardinal rule for wardrobe planning, it’s to be ready for extremes. Summertime temperatures and humidity can be brutal, but so can the air conditioning inside museums and other attractions. If you’re going to be going back and forth between the two several times each day, you want to be ready. Here are some suggestions.

Comfortable Walking Shoes


D.C. is a great city for walking, but your feet may fall victim to its monumental-scale distances. Make sure you have shoes that are up to the challenge. Merrell’s Moab series has been around for years with options for men and women, and its utilitarian comfort just keeps getting better.

Casual Pants

best travel jeans prana women's kara jean pants

Here’s the quick answer to the question “what to wear in Washington, D.C.?” Anything besides cargo shorts. As one D.C. native puts it: “The fashion aesthetic here is more preppy than fratty. People look like they spend their time on sailboats, not playing beer pong.” If you’re planning on spending any time in Georgetown, this advice holds quadruply true. Consider these jeans or these casual content pants as an alternative

Light Sweater

When it comes to Washington, D.C. clothing, a light sweater can be a godsend—especially if you’re trekking the Mall in July and then spending a couple of hours in an air-conditioned Smithsonian museum. And if you have a dinner reservation that doesn’t allow for time to swing back to your hotel first, the same sweater can transform an outfit you’ve been wearing all day. Here’s some comfy options for men and women.

Sun Hat

Wide-brimmed, crushable sun hats can be surprisingly hard to come by, but they can make your life a lot easier under blazing summer skies. This men’s hat does the trick with UPF protection and women might like this crushable hat from Siggi.

Rain Jacket

Patagonia nano-air hoody

If you’re planning outdoor activities and the forecast calls for rain, consider investing in a solid rain jacket. This Patagonia jacket doesn’t come cheap, but neither will it let you down when you need it most.

Obama T-Shirt

When you’re trying to figure out what to wear in Washington, D.C., it doesn’t hurt to choose something that suggests you miss the Obama administration. You will definitely ingratiate yourself with the heavily Democratic-leaning locals. This T-shirt is a classic.

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—Original reporting by Matt Jenkins

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